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Darien boys swim team looks to build momentum

Updated 4:30 pm, Monday, December 10, 2012
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With a new coach, a decidedly young team and key losses from last year, the Darien High School boys swim team is not boastful about the upcoming season.

In fact, the team captains call it a re-building year.

Yet, with plenty of talent remaining and a palpable sense of optimism, one wonders if Darien is merely lying low, waiting to pounce.

"This is definitely a re-building year," said James Baker, one of the team's three senior captains. "We lost a lot of seniors from last year, and we have a lot of new freshman. We will work with the younger players as much as we can, rebuild, get everyone better technically and improve times."

Fellow co-captain Joe Haddad agrees.

"The advantage of having these new freshmen and coach is that we are setting a foundation for future years to build a really strong group; it is sort of like what we went through as freshmen," Haddad said.

The Wave will look to the triumvirate of seniors Baker, Haddad and Will Smelser to form the backbone of this year's team. The team also expects juniors Christian Weeks and Owen Brannigan to have banner seasons.

The new head coach is Dennis Flores, who takes the reins from Jason Cochran, last year's FCIAC Coach of the Year. While this is Flores' first head coaching job, he has plenty of coaching experience. With a total of 13 years coaching under his belt, Flores has spent the last eight years with the Zeus Swim Team in Norwalk. He has also coached at the YWCA Middies in White Plains, NY, and at the Roton Point swim team in Norwalk.

"I am looking forward to it," Flores said of his new task. "I would like to get familiar with everybody first, create a good team environment, and then hopefully win some meets."

He feels that his job as coach is to "Get them going, get them excited about swimming and get them further in their swimming careers."

While just about every team every year laments the departure of graduating seniors from the previous season, Darien's losses cut particularly deep.

Topping the list are Jack Bair, who was First Team All-FCIAC in the 200 freestyle and Tyler Gould, First Team All-FCIAC in the 100 freestyle. Adding to that void are Sam Gillespie, 200 medley relay, and Chris Jansen, 400 freestyle relay, who were both named Second Team All-FCIAC.

"They really formed the core of our team last year," Baker said.

The Wave took third in last year's FCIAC's and second in the State Championship Class L.

"It is disappointing that we lost (in States)," Baker said, "But we are always trying to get back."

As far as meets to watch this year, Haddad said he is looking forward to the match-up with New Canaan.

"They managed to best us the last few years, but New Canaan lost a lot of seniors like we did so it's going to be interesting to see how we compete against them," Haddad said.

Smelser, who is also a captain, said that FCIACs will be a challenge this year.

"The teams that usually do well are the bigger teams with a lot of depth," Smelser said. "We have a very small team compared to other towns."

"What is so great about swimming is that it is not all about the championship and how far you get, it's about personal improvement," Haddad said.